Russia launches military drills in south

Russia launches military drills in south

Wed Aug 20, 2014 1:9PM GMT

Russia has launched fresh military exercises in the south of the country as fighting intensifies between pro-Moscow forces and government troops in Ukraine.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that long-range anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems will be tested throughout the exercises at Ashuluk airbase in the Astrakhan region, 640 kilometers from the volatile eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk.

“Today, S-300 (SA-21 Grumble) and S-400 Triumph (SA-21 Growler) surface-to-air missile systems will carry out around 20 rocket launches. Air defense missile units are to repel an aggressor’s massive air missile strike and destroy high-altitude, low-altitude and ballistic targets,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Colonel Igor Klimov, said.

The drills involve 200 pieces of military equipment and more than 800 Russian soldiers, Klimov added.

Russia has recently conducted numerous military exercises which the West has criticized as intending to intimidate Ukraine. Moscow, however, denies the claims.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has also held a number of war games in Eastern Europe and reinforced its air patrol over the Baltic region since March following the integration of Ukraine’s then autonomous region of Crimea into the Russian Federation. Moscow has repeatedly denounced the Western military alliance’s moves as a sign of aggression amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking regions in the east have witnessed deadly clashes between pro-Moscow forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations to silence the pro-Russians.

The political unrest in eastern Ukraine has so far claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people, according to figures by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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